A man examines cannabis plants, grown in Israel for medical marijuana use..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A staggering 61.1% of complaints filed by the public against the Health Ministry were found to be valid in 2018, a report by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira announced Monday.
As in past reports, a major issue with the Health Ministry has been that the government body is too restrictive in approving the medical use of cannabis, or marijuana.
In this capacity, as the country’s ombudsman for public complaints, Shapira wrote that the percentage of complaints from the public against government authorities which were found to be valid was disturbingly high at 35.2%.
This overall rate of valid complaints against all government ministries was up from 32.2% in 2017, and 29.1% in 2016.
The Israel Post Office had the worst percentage, with 72.7% of complaints being found to be valid. The rate for the Transportation Ministry was 49.7%; the Social Affairs and Welfare Ministry, Tax Authority and Education Ministry all came in at around 40%.
The Post Office and the National Insurance Institute (NII) had the negative distinction of being the most complained-against institutions, with the NII receiving 1,101 complaints and the Post office receiving 864.
The report specifically emphasizes infringements by government authorities of human rights, especially those of disabled persons, the elderly, pregnant women and children.
Regarding cannabis specifically, the comptroller found that 85% of complaints received from the public were valid or required his office’s intervention to address the issue.
His office also found that the number of complaints had doubled since 2017, though the nature of complaints was strikingly similar.
In 2017, the Health Ministry was found to be unjustifiably blocking the use of cannabis in 83% of cases.
For two years in a row, the comptroller said that many sick people had fallen victim to many bureaucratic pitfalls when they appealed to the unit for getting or renewing a medical marijuana license.
Furthermore, Shapira said that those pitfalls included substantial delays for intake and handling of the requests, as well as failure to update patients on the status of their requests.
Delays included a lack of practical ability to get through to representatives by telephone; failing to respond to inquiries; and of being suspicious of those seeking cannabis.
Overall, the comptroller said that the outdated mentality of the Health Ministry unit dealing with medical marijuana, and not a lack of resources, was a primary cause of the problem.
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